How to Bring Down the Cost of Health Insurance Premiums

Americans spend $210 billion on needless medical services …

(SALLY C. PIPES, NEWSWEEK) Earlier this year, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would make medical malpractice suits less lucrative to plaintiffs and trial lawyers.

The measure is part of House Republicans’ effort to tackle skyrocketing health costs.

Such reforms are sorely needed. But Congress is the wrong forum for these changes. Malpractice suits are heard in state court. So states ought to be the ones to rein in abuse of the system.

Medical malpractice settlements add billions to the costs of healthcare. Photo by succo (Pixabay)

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State legislators can better ensure that legitimately injured patients receive fair compensation while preventing the ludicrous payouts and get-rich-quick lawsuits that inflate healthcare costs for the rest of us.

If a patient is injured after a medical procedure, he may consider filing a malpractice suit alleging that his physician botched the operation. But surgeries and other procedures can go wrong for any number of reasons. One Harvard analysis of 1,500 malpractice claims found that the physician made no medical error in about 40 percent of cases.

Physicians, hospitals, and nursing homes often settle malpractice suits to avoid expensive court fights and the risk of huge damages. A successful malpractice suit nets a plaintiff over $350,000, on average.

Extra-marital affair nets Georgia man $3 million in malpractice damages

In some cases, plaintiffs can earn millions, even if the malpractice claim is questionable. Consider the case of a Georgia man who went to the cardiologist complaining of chest pain. After examining the patient, the doctor scheduled a stress test for the following week.

Common sense would dictate that the patient should have taken it easy in the ensuing week. But he decided to engage in, shall we say, some risky extramarital sexual activity. He had a heart attack and died soon after.

His family sued the doctor for failing to warn the man against exerting himself. The jury ruled for the plaintiff and awarded $3 million in damages.

Unjust awards like this can strike fear into doctors and cause them to perform more procedures than necessary. If they order every test in the book, the thinking goes, they can’t possibly be accused of negligence.

But those tests add up. Every year, Americans spend $210 billion on needless medical services.

A high number of $3 million payouts also drives up the cost of malpractice insurance. The average general surgeon in practicing in Long Island, for example, paid over $136,000 for insurance from 2015 to 2016. Obstetricians and gynecologists had to pay nearly $180,000, on average. Displayed with permission from Newsweek via Repubhub.